Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:43 pm
Belgian prosecutors on Wednesday named a 35-year-old Algerian as the man shot dead by police on Tuesday during a police raid on a Brussels apartment in the hunt for clues to bloody attacks in Paris last November.
Police found an Islamic State flag in the apartment used by Mohamed Belkaid and two others suspected of being with him after officers were met with a barrage of automatic weapons fire as they arrived to search the flat.
Belkaid, who was living in Belgium illegally and had a police record for theft but was not on security watchlists, was killed by a special forces sniper after a three-hour siege. A manhunt for the two other suspects continued on Wednesday.
The government held its alert status steady at Level Three, one step below the maximum.
The prosecutors said a radical Islamic text was found next to Belkaid’s body and a cache of ammunition was also discovered. It was not clear if he had any links to the Paris suspects.
Two people detained overnight on suspicion of links to the shootout in the suburb of Forest were released without charge.
Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the Nov. 13 shooting and bombing rampage in Paris that killed 130 people was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought as militants in Syria.
Ten people are being held in Belgian custody on a variety of charges relating to the four-month investigation, though prime suspects, including Salah Abdeslam, a brother of one of the Paris suicide bombers, are suspected of having fled the country.
On Tuesday, six Belgian and French police officers arrived to search the flat and came under automatic fire through a door from at least two people barricaded inside. Four officers, one of them a Frenchwoman, were wounded, none very seriously.
Ministers said the police visit to the apartment had not been expected to provide much new evidence and that the presence of French officers did not imply a major break in the case.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said he was holding the state of alert steady after a meeting of security and intelligence chiefs in Belgium’s national security council .
Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days shortly after the Paris attacks because of fears of a major incident there. The city has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular occurrence.
Belgium, with a Muslim population of about 5 percent among its 11 million people, has Europe’s highest rate of citizens joining Islamist militants in Syria.